Speech/statement | Date: 2015-06-15 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
State Secretary Morten Høglund's introduction at Norwegian Institute of International Affairs' seminar on relations between Asean and Norway and why Norway will strengthen its cooperation with South East Asia and the Asean countries.
ladies and gentlemen.
As I am sure you are all aware, in 1967 five key Southeast Asian leaders met in Bangkok and signed what has become known as the Bangkok Declaration. This marked the birth of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, also known as Asean. Since then, the organisation has developed constantly. Asean is still seen as a relatively young regional player on the global stage. The adoption of the Asean Charter in 2007 turned Asean into a legal entity and a more formal community. It also demonstrated to the international community Asean's ambitions to take regional integration a step further.
Asean plays a key role as an arena for political discussions, economic cooperation and cultural exchange. Over the last few years, we have seen Asean play an important role in regional issues such as the disputes in the South China Sea. Furthermore, Asean has played a crucial role in the reform process in Myanmar, and in the regional human rights discussions through the establishment of the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. Through the Asean Regional Forum and the partnerships Asean has with its dialogue partners, Asean also takes active part in global policy discussions and contributes to increased contact. Both between countries within Asia and between Asia and other continents.
Mr Secretary-General, I think all this makes clear why Norway attaches great importance to Asean, and why Norway is eager to expand and strengthen its cooperation with South East Asia. The developments in your region are important for Norway because of our close economic ties, and because of our close political dialogue and cooperation with the Asean countries.
Asean is a community of 10 member states with a total population of well over 600 million people. These 10 countries vary greatly in terms of their size and stages of development, but they share a desire to promote common values and improve the lives of people in the region.
Asean has played an important part in securing peace among its members and is today considered a vital contributor to peace and stability in the region.
For example, at the 9th Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting in Malaysia on 16 March this year, the 10 defence ministers from Asean's member states signed a joint declaration focusing on regional security cooperation. This declaration specifically deals with terrorist threats posed by groups like Isil.
By initiating and organising a number of highly important events, such as the Asean Summits, broader regional meetings such as the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) and the East Asia Summit (EAS), and thematic Ministerial Meetings, Asean and its partner countries can meet and discuss issues relating to peace, stability and economic development. The discussions in these forums deal with issues that Norway also takes a great interest in.
Furthermore, the establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) by the end of this year will mark a milestone in the regional integration effort. The AEC will be a single market with a GDP of about USD 2.4 trillion and an annual growth rate of around 5 per cent.
Asean's central location means that it attracts great interest from all major actors in international relations, for geopolitical reasons as well as economic ones.
Norwegian companies and economic actors are heavily involved in the region. Around 230 Norwegian companies have a presence in Asean countries, employing more than 18 000 people (mostly locals) and reporting a yearly turnover of more than USD 18 billion. Between 2004 and 2014 trade in goods between Norway and the Asean countries grew by over 250 % to some NOK 33 billion (or USD 4.3 billion). Trade in services is also of considerable and growing importance. The Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global has invested a total of USD 16 billion in the Asean countries. And I could go on.
In other words – Norway and Asean have extensive economic relations.
For several years now, Norway and Asean have worked to expand our cooperation. During Brunei's chairmanship of the organisation in 2013, Norway signed a Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with Southeast Asia (the TAC). In this treaty, we confirmed our joint commitment to promoting Asean's principles, values and norms, such as mutual respect and the settlement of differences or disputes by peaceful means.
During Myanmar's chairmanship of the organisation in 2014, I had the great pleasure of being present during the Asean Ministerial Meeting in Naypyidaw. Here, we issued a Joint Statement, confirming our intentions to work closely together in a spirit of friendship, goodwill and understanding for the realisation of an Asean Community. This statement identified areas of common interest and set out the basis for our cooperation. We agreed to work together within all the three pillars of Asean cooperation: the Political-Security Community, the Economic Community and the Socio-Cultural Community.
In December last year, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende sent a letter applying for a formal partnership with Asean. A formal partnership would further deepen our relationship and provide a platform for closer political relations, including access to relevant political arenas. It would also identify priority areas for expanded cooperation. We look forward to continued dialogue on our application with the Secretary-General and all the Asean member states, and hope we can take our cooperation one step further at the Ministerial Meeting in Kuala Lumpur in August.
Even without a formal partnership in place, we have already implemented some cooperation projects, and we are in the process of identifying more. Some of the areas in which we are looking to cooperate are peace and reconciliation, student exchange, climate and clean energy. Norwegians tend to be pragmatic, so we have decided that there is no reason not to get a head start. However, these efforts can be redoubled once our formal partnership is in place and a mechanism for selecting and administering projects has been agreed on. I know that the Asean Secretariat and the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta are working hard to find practical solutions to this.
I look forward to deepening the cooperation between Norway and Asean. As Asean is a consensus-based organisation, this is something that will take time and we are keen to do this the Asean way, taking one step at the time. We know that both Asean and Norway have experience and assets of interest to each other, and we are eager to move forward together.
Asean is and will continue to be an important foreign policy actor, both on a global and a regional level. We are looking forward to following the continued regional integration process that is taking place in Asean, and which has the potential to create a better future for the people of the region. Norway is ready to be a part of that future.